How to cure a cold?

A japanese cold masks from sizemore's stream

There’s an interesting sight to witness in Japan near the onset of winter. Suddenly the masses on the trains and in the offices and schools will started to be peppered with what appeared to be surgical masks.

The masks a surgeon might wear when performing surgery on some sick person. Suddenly it seems every other person is wearing on of these white masks. The white masks can be bought at convenience stores such as Lawson or Circle K. They come in packs of six or so. They’re not just for fancy dress!

Japan has quite a strong work ethic and one of the unwritten rules is that – there are no sick days – you should always be in work. If you really need a sick day you should take paid leave. Of course now and again people will use their sick leave (daikyu it’s called) for instance loosing a leg or being involved in a car crash. It’s the exception rather than the rule though.

When a worker gets a cold it’s common that he or she will continue to attend work. To prevent everyone becoming sick they don a mask that will stop germs being spread. This the theory anyway and I can attest that it most certainly does not work. In winter, at school, everyone gets a cold – everyone.

Part of the problem for workers are the trains and subways. In Tokyo there are people who’s job is too push salarymen onto over crowded. Hot, cramped, full of flu germs – people get colds mask or no.

The other reason people wear masks is as a preventative measure. If you think everyone at the office is looking a bit ill then you pop on your mask and hope for the best. I’ve never actually tried the mask so I cannot confirm or deny whether or not this works. Even if it doesn’t it does have the advantage that is makes you look a bit like a ninja – so it’s not all bad.

When the inevitable strikes and you get this winters particular edition of the flu – then there a number of cures:

1. Head to the hospital

Yes, not the doctor! It’s quite often to visit a specialist at some particular hospital rather than going to a more general clinic. Here you will be given some reasonably potent drugs. These are likely to remove some of the symptoms and eventually the cold will pass.

2. Ginger Tea

This is a traditional cold cure; generally one or two chunks of ginger are skinned, chopped and added to boiling water. A slice or two of lemon is put in a glass, and then the ginger water is poured on top of the lemon. Sugar or honey may also be added to taste. This is a bit like the British version of tea with milk and honey and lots of toast.

3. Extreme Lemon Drinks

These are in convenience stores and vending machines and may be bought hot or cold. They contain mega doses of vitamin C – and usually a number of other vitamins too. I’m usually a little wary of taking a months worth of vitamin C in one go but if you’re feeling ill you might be tempted.

4. Exciting drug store pills

Or non-prescription medicine. Compared to the UK you can buy a lot more drugs, over the counter here. Around winter time there’ll be thousands of cold cure type things – mostly pills. Once again these will generally remove the more serious symptoms and then you can wait out the cold.

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